Celebrating 161 Years!
Celebrating 161 Years!
Nation’s Oldest Horse Show Returns to Upperville June 2 – 8
Held under the same massive towering oaks at Grafton Farm east of Upperville on Rt. 50 regularly since 1853, the Upperville Colt & Horse Show is the granddaddy of all shows in the U.S. It’s not only the oldest in the country, it’s also generally accepted as the first horse show held as a separate entity. Prior to 1853, horses were exhibited at state and local county fairs, but little was done to promote breeding stock even at a time in our history that depended on horses for transportation. It’s no surprise that a Virginian, Col. Richard Henry Dulaney, decided he wanted to do more to promote breeding stock and convince people to take better care of their mares, foals and young horses. Accordingly, he offered several quality stallions at stud for free for local farmers to breed their mares to, consulted with a Manhattan silversmith named Louis Tiffany for the first trophies, and held the first show with classes for colts and fillies in 1953. It was such a success that shortly after, a club was formed of local breeders and farmers and the show not only got larger and offered more classes, it spawned the formation of other shows throughout the country.
Even after the automobile replaced the car as the primary form of transportation, horse shows remained major social and community events, with the Upperville Colt & Horse Show reigning supreme among the landed gentry of the Atlantic Seaboard. Among horseman and horsewomen as well as the social circuit, its reputation grew and expanded and national caliber performance and jumping classes were added regularly until it reached the size it is today: a seven-day show with over 2,000 entries. One of the original solid sterling Tiffany trophies from the show’s beginning is the prize possession of a local Upperville resident.
Today’s Upperville show has classes for everything from leadline—toddlers on ponies led by doting adults, to children on ponies; hunter, jumper and equitation (where the rider rather than the horse is judged) and more. Pony rides are available along with a plethora of boutiques, arts and crafts, children’s games and food. The grand finale is Sunday, June 8th with the original concept: breeding classes for young horses and stallions still held under the same old oak trees at Grafton Farm and the Upperville Jumper Classic will take place in the new all-weather jumper ring. The show is on either side of Rt. 50 just east of Upperville, 10 minutes west of Middleburg. Admission is $10, children under 12 are free when accompanied by an adult. For reserved parking, week-long passes, group or special arrangements call the show office at 540/687-5740 or visit upperville.com.
Written by: Julie Reardon